Discover the Undiscovered Umpqua Valley Wine Region in Oregon

By | Italian Wine Specialist & Wine Writer
Last Updated: May 12, 2024
View of the Umpqua Valley wine region in Oregon from Cooper Ridge Vineyard

Umpqua Valley may be undiscovered, but it is where the first Pinot Noir in Oregon was planted!

Planning a weekend in wine country can be an expensive experience. The most tourist-developed wine regions offer pricy accommodations and meals, as well as sometimes costly wine tastings. If you want to experience a wine region untouched by massive tourism and elevated pricing, then it is time to discover the undiscovered Umpqua Valley in Oregon.

Most people think of the Willamette Valley when talking about wine in Oregon. But just south of the Willamette Valley is the Umpqua Valley. This is where the first wine grapes were planted in Oregon. Richard Sommer planted the first wine grapes in the modern era in 1961 at Hillcrest Vineyard, located near Roseburg in the Umpqua Valley. Sommer planted various grape varieties, including Pinot Noir, Riesling, and Gewürztraminer, and it was these early plantings that laid the foundation for Oregon’s reputation as a premier wine-producing region, particularly for Pinot Noir.

Getting to the Umpqua Valley

The Umpqua Valley AVA sits between the Coast Range to the west, the Cascade Range to the east, the Willamette Valley to the north, and the Rogue Valley to the south. The Umpqua Valley is a two-and-a-half hour drive from Portland and a seven-and-a-half hour drive from San Francisco. There are two airports you can fly into. The Eugene Airport is one hour north of Elkton in the northern part of the Umpqua Valley and the Medford Airport is a one-and-a-half hour drive from Roseburg in the southern part of the Umpqua Valley.

About the Umpqua Valley

The Umpqua Valley is a wine region with a complex topography formed by the collision of three mountain ranges, the Klamath Mountains, the Coast Range, and the Cascades. As a result, the Umpqua Valley, also known as “the hundred valleys of the Umpqua”, is a land of lots of hills and valleys, similar to Piedmont, Italy. In fact, 75% of Umpqua Valley is hillsides. In addition, there are 150 different soil types. “It is like facets on a diamond,” described Hillcrest Vineyard owner and winemaker Dyson DeMara.

The first vineyards were planted in the Umpqua Valley in the 1880s by German immigrants. As mentioned above, Sommer, who started the modern wine industry in Umpqua Valley in 1961, was the first person to plant Pinot Noir vines in the ground, even when pessimists in California said Oregon was too cold and wet for Pinot Noir. This is because the Umpqua Valley has one of Oregon’s more diverse regional climates and can successfully grow cool and warm climate varieties.

In the northern part of the Umpqua Valley, around the town of Elkton, the climate is cool with a marine influence. This is where Pinot Noir thrives. In the central area of the Umpqua Valley, south of Roseburg, the warmer and more arid climate is ideal for varieties such as Tempranillo, Syrah, and Merlot.

With more than 20 wineries on the Umpqua Valley Wine Trail map, there is much to discover. A great way to explore the wineries of the Umpqua Valley is with a Umpqua Valley Tasting Pass. The 1, 3, and 7-day passes include complimentary tasting flights and exclusive discounts on wine purchases.

Best Wineries to Visit in the Umpqua Valley

ELKTON

The quaint town of Elkton. Images courtesy Allison Levine.

Rivers Edge Winery

Milroy and Vonnie Landt of Rivers Edge Winery.
Milroy and Vonnie Landt of Rivers Edge Winery. Image courtesy Allison Levine.

Rivers Edge Winery was the first winery founded in Elkton. Milroy and Vonnie Landt started River’s Edge in 1996 with the purchase of two vineyards. The winery, built in 2000, is located on the north bank of the Umpqua River. River’s Edge is dedicated to producing environmentally sustainable wine from extremely local grapes. Their tasting room is just outside the tiny town of Elkton. They produce Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, as well as Gewurtraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, and Aligote. They also produce Baco Noir, a French-American hybrid grape that ripens early and is ideally adapted to their environment. Located just outside the town of Elkton, the River’s Edge tasting room is open daily from 11am – 5pm.

Brandborg Vineyard & Winery

Brandborg Vineyard & Winery
Gorgeous sunset in the Umpqua Valley wine region. Image courtesy Brandborg Vineyard & Winery.

Terry Brandborg started as a home winemaker with his father in 1975 and began producing wine commercially in 1985, sourcing fruit from the Anderson Valley. When looking for land in a cool climate, Terry was familiar with Umpqua Valley having gone camping and fishing in the area as a child. He had not visited Elkton but once he did, he knew it was the place he was looking for. He and his wife Sue relocated to Elkton from San Francisco in 2002 and today own 145 acres. Their home vineyard, The Ferris Wheel Vineyard, sits at 1100 feet overlooking the Umpqua River and the Oregon coast range.

The Brandborg tasting room is in the center of the one-block town of Elkton. Here you can enjoy their elegant Pinot Noirs, as well as Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Gewurztraminer.

Knoll Vineyard Wines

Steve and Lesie Berkeley of Knoll Vineyard Wines.
Steve and Lesie Berkeley of Knoll Vineyard Wines. Image courtesy Allison Levine.

Leslie Beckley was first introduced to wine while studying art in France. After finishing her art degree at Berkeley, she ultimately found herself raising horses and running cattle in the Umpqua Valley and met Steve Beckley, a 5th generation logger and tree farmer. Leslie always had a dream to plant grapes and when she was thinking of retiring, she realized that she had 30 acres perfect to plant vines. Leslie returned to school at the age of 64, she got her degree in viticulture and enology. She planted 17 acres of Pinot Noir in 2018 and another 13 acres in 2023. She also has Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Meunier, Tempranillo, Syrah, and Alicante Bouscet planted.

Knoll Vineyard Wines allows private groups to visit the vineyard for a tour and tasting by appointment. But, the wines can also be tasted at Tomaselli’s Pastry Mill & Café, the one restaurant in the town of Elkton, that Leslie and Steve purchased in 2023.

Lexème Wines

Lexème Wines
Image courtesy Allison Levine.

Monja and Christopher Hudson created the brand Lexème (which means “root of a word” in French) in 2015. Monja was born and raised in the French side of Switzerland where she studied enology. She worked around Europe before coming to Oregon in 2006. It was in Oregon, working at King Estate, that she met Christopher, a 6th generation Oregonian. In 2010, they bought a 200-acre legacy ranch that had been a cattle operation for 120 years. They planted Pinot Noir and Gamay in 2011 and have since added Viognier, Chasselas, and Malbec for a total of 6 acres planted.

The Lexème Wines tasting room, opening in 2024, is located 6 miles south of Elkton at their vineyard.

ROSEBURG

An hour south of Elkton is Roseburg. There are many wineries to visit around Roseburg as this is where the majority of the Umpqua Valley wineries are centered.

Hillcrest Vineyard

The view at Hillcrest Vineyard
A glimpse of the view at Hillcrest Vineyard. Image courtesy Allison Levine.

Established in 1961 by Richard Sommer, Hillcrest Vineyard is the oldest continually operating post-prohibition estate winery in Oregon and the birthplace of Oregon Pinot Noir. Dyson and Susan De Mara purchased the property from Richard Sommer in 2003. Dyson worked at Mondavi for many years before coming to Oregon. At Hillcrest, he farms 40 acres planted to Pinot Noir, Malbec, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Gamay, Gewurztraminer, Sangiovese, Dolcetto, Schioppetino, Pinot Blanc, Barbera, and Merlot. In addition, Dyson also makes wine in Germany, Spain, France, Italy, and Austria.

Dyson’s philosophy is to let the wines taste like where they are from. Dyson explained, “Good wines taste like a grape and great wines taste like a place.” He does not use any additives or adjuncts. His belief is to make wine using only what was used one hundred years ago. Grapes are dry-farmed and hand-picked.

The historic Hillcrest Vineyard tasting room is rustic and unpretentious. Open daily, it is a warm and welcoming place run by Dyson, his wife Susan, and their adult children.

Abacela Winery

Abacela Winery
The vineyard landscape surrounding Abacela Winery. Image courtesy Abacela Winery.

Earl and Hilda Jones bought their property in 1992 with the goal to plant and produce Tempranillo. Umpqua Valley offered the ideal “marginal” climate with dry summers, cool but wet winters, and a long growing season. They began planting in 1995. Originally a homestead dating back to 1849, the property includes hundreds of forested acres, a wildlife habitat, an orchard dating back to the 1850s, and 76 planted acres of 17 different varieties.  

Abacela Winery was the first Oregon winery to grow, produce, and bottle 100% single varietal wines with Cabernet France in 1996, Tempranillo and Malbec in 1997, Albarino in 2001, Tannat in 2008, Tinta Amarela in 2010, Touriga Nacional in 2012, and Graciano in 2013. In fact, Abacela was possibly the first winery in the United States to bottle Albarino, Tempranillo, and Tinta Amarela.

Abacela is open daily and offers seating wine tastings on the patio or in the tasting room. They offer a selection of food items for purchase. Abacela also offers twice-weekly tours of the property with CEO Greg Jones, a great way to get a close-up view of the vineyards.

Giradet Vineyards and Winery

Giradet Vineyards and Winery bottle shot
Image courtesy Giradet Vineyards and Winery.

The second oldest winery in the Umpqua Valley, Giradet Vineyards and Winery was started by Swiss-born rocket scientist Philippe Giradet and his schoolteacher wife Bonnie. They found the Umpqua Valley while driving around in their 1965 Volkswagen bus. In 1970, they purchased 54 acres of an old sheep pasture and planted a vineyard in 1971 with cuttings from New York state. Philippe was the first person to bottle Baco Noir as a single varietal wine in 1990 and in 2009, the Giradet Baco Noir was recognized as “one of Oregon’s best red wines…”. Philippe’s son Marc was the first to plant Teroldego in the Umpuqua Valley in 2011. In addition, Giradet has Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Syrah, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Sangiovese, and Barbera planted, as well as additional hybrid varieties including Seyval Blanc, Cayuga, and Marechal Foch.

Visitors are welcome to visit the historic Giradet property, which is open Wednesday through Sunday in March through December and by appointment on other days.

Reustle Prayer Rock

Reustle Prayer Rock
The wine cave at Reustle Prary Rock. Image courtesy Reustle Prayer Rock.

Businessman and wine collector Steve Reustle (pronounced “rus’el”) had the desire to make wine. He looked from Temecula to Walla Walla for the best place. While on a trip to the Willamette Valley, a Google search led him to the Umpqua Valley, whose steep, south-facing slopes reminded him of Burgundy. He moved to the Umpqua Valley in 2001 and purchased 200 acres. He planted 40 acres in 2002 and has two vineyards, Prayer Rock Vineyard and Romancing Rock Vineyard.

Reustle Prary Rock has 15 grape varieties planted including Tempranillo, Pinot Noir, Malbec, Merlot, Grenache, Riesling, Chardonnay, Viognier, Pinot Gris, Roussanne, Semillon, Muscat, and Sauvignon Blanc. But the two primary grapes are Gruner Veltliner and Syrah. In fact, Steve was the first to plant Gruner Veltliner in the United States in 2005 and produces both still and sparkling versions. 

A visit to Reustle Prayer Rock includes picturesque hillside vineyards, an amphitheater, an observation deck, and a European-style wine cave. Open Monday through Saturday, Reustle Prayer Rock offers tasting flights with bite-sized food pairings.

Cooper Ridge Vineyard

Cooper Ridge Vineyard
You’re in for a treat when you visit Cooper Ridge. Image courtesy Cooper Ridge Vineyard.

Cooper Ridge Vineyard was established in 2008 by Robin and Lesa Ray and in 2021 Steve and Paula Wilson purchased the property. The family-owned winery is on a 25-acre estate and they have 11 acres planted with seven different grape varieties, including Riesling, Viognier, Gruner Veltliner, and Pinot Noir.

The tasting room, located six miles from downtown Roseburg, is open Thursday through Sunday. Guests enjoy stunning panoramic views of the valley below and the mountain ranges to the east and to the west while tasting the Cooper Ridge Wines. Cheese and charcuterie, as well as veggies, hummus, and other light bites, are available for purchase.

Meadows Estate Vineyard & Winery

Meadows Estate Vineyard & Winery was started in 1996 by Greg and Francis Cramer who found that the Umpqua Valley offered similarities to the Rhone Valley in France. In 2020, Dexter and Marilyn Meadows purchased the property. Owning a winery had not been their initial plan, but the couple, raised in Tuskegee, Alabama and living in Southern California, have found their new adventure. They own 100 acres with 17 acres of vines and have renovated the property. The tasting room is open Wednesday through Sunday, as well as by appointment.

DOWNTOWN ROSEBURG

Paul O’Brien Winery

Paul O'Brien Winery
Image courtesy Paul O’Brien Winery.

Paul O’Brien Winery is a partnership between two friends, Dyson Paul DeMara (of Hillcrest Vineyard) and Scott O’Brien Kelley. The two met working at Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa Valley more than twenty years ago and have traveled the world’s wine regions. In 2013, they partnered to start the Umpqua Valley’s first urban winery in the historic Hansen Chevrolet building in downtown Roseburg, Oregon. Scott has a 6.5 acre vineyard and they also purchase grapes from eight different dry-farmed, hillside vineyards throughout the Umpqua Valley. Paul O’Brien wines include Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Fume Blanc (an ode to their time working for Mondavi), Riesling, Moscato, Sangiovese, Syrah, Petite Sirah, and Merlot. Paul O’Brien also produces dessert wines, including a Malmsey and a Vin Santo.

The tasting room, open daily, is located on the old showroom floor of what was once the oldest family-owned Chevrolet dealership west of the Mississippi.

Trella Vineyards

Trella Vineyards
Image courtesy Trella Vineyards.

Trella Vineyards is a boutique family-owned vineyard and winery. Stephen and Susan Williams, both doctors, moved to Oregon for work. Living in the middle of wine country, they got bit by the wine bug and in 2001 they purchased an 80-acre hillside parcel at the base of the Callhan Mountains. Stephen and his father planted everything themselves. They planted 3.5 acres in 2012 and another 3.5 acres in 2013. They are growing Pinot Gris, Gruner Veltliner, Malbec, Tempranillo, and Pinot Noir. 

The casual and inviting Trella Vineyards tasting room, open Tuesday through Saturday, is in a historic 1908 building on Jackson Street in downtown Roseburg.

Where to Stay

The largest city in the Umpqua Valley, with a population of 23,000+ people, is Roseburg. Roseburg offers a variety of lodging options, from hotels to historic Bed and Breakfasts, as well as Airbnb. Some wineries also offer guest accommodations.

Bed & Breakfasts

Bell Sister Flats was originally a hat and dress shop owned by sisters Minnie and Mineta Bell in the early 1900s. Bell Sister Flats are two flats on the second story of a historic building in downtown Roseburg.

C.H. Bailey House offers a one-bedroom suite in a historical home built in 1909.

Hokanson’s Guest House is the only bed and breakfast on the National Historic Register. A historic Victorian home built in 1882, the rooms have been refurbished and they offer freshly baked breads and baked goods, as well as a 3-course breakfast.

The Painted Lady Bed & Breakfast offers two beautiful rooms, each with a private bathroom, and a gourmet five-course breakfast each morning.

Terraluna Inn, built in 1925, is a full-service bed and breakfast offering one king suite with a private balcony on the second floor.

Winery Accommodations

Cooper Ridge Vineyard offers a guest house, with a one or two-bedroom booking option, that sits 150 feet above the North Umpqua River and offers extraordinary panoramic views.

Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards Vineyard Inn is in the former Carriage House. The Inn includes two rooms, a full kitchen, and access to explore the gardens and vineyards of the winery. 

Meadows Estate Vineyard & Winery offers a 5-bedroom two-story farmhouse with views of panoramic mountain vistas and rolling hills.  

Hotels

The hotels in Roseburg are mostly value chains. But if a hotel is preferred, the Hampton Inn & Suites is the newest property with modern amenities.

Recommended Restaurants

Eating in the Umpqua Valley is primarily centered around Roseburg.

Gathering Grounds Coffee House is an independent coffee shop operated by mother-daughter duo, Peggy Cheatham and Felicia Mellor. Gathering Grounds features an array of regionally local goods like Rogue Cheese, Elderflower Farms, Melrose Hemp, panini bread by Lighthouse Center Bakery, and fair trade, shade-grown organic coffee by Cafeto. The pastries, burritos, pasta salads, and green salads are handmade in-house by Peggy or Felicia. 

True Kitchen + Bar is a convivial downtown Roseburg bistro. Owner Lisa Carens moved to Oregon 32 years ago from Southern California. She opened True Kitchen & Bar 8 1/2 years ago to offer elevated comfort food and a place that welcomes everyone. The wine list focuses exclusively on Umpqua Valley wines and the menu is farm-to-table sourced from local ingredients.

Cozy vibes, views and great eats at the Parrot House. Images courtesy Allison Levine.

The Parrott House offers a wide variety of food options in a cozy and welcoming atmosphere. The menu features an eclectic menu with classic American dishes as well as grilled meats, seafood, pasta, and brick-oven pizza. The Parrott House, a craftsman revival with a gothic overlay, was owned by the Parrott family dating back to 1891. Heidi Lael purchased the property in 2011. The old house, which is on the National Historic Registry, houses the kitchen on the second floor and a wine bar on the first floor. Just outside the house is the dining pavilion. The historic washhouse is now the bourbon bar with 135 bottles of whiskey, bourbon, and scotch. There is also a patio and an outdoor amphitheater.

Old Soul Pizza is a funky local pizza joint with wood-fired pizza.

“The Lot” is a parking lot in downtown Roseburg with year-round food trucks and covered picnic tables for seating. This is the perfect spot for a quick lunch or for picking up food to go on your way to taste wine.

If you are longing to explore a wine region that has not been overrun by tourists and still maintains its rusticity and affordability, then head to the Umpqua Valley and discover the undiscovered.


Featured image Cooper Ridge Vineyard

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